What Are Your Sanity Saving Tips?
While perusing the news yesterday morning, I read about a woman who had set her 6-year-old on fire. I read about a mother who delivered a fatal punch to the head of her 7-month-old baby. I read about a mother who suffocated her newborn because he wouldn’t stop crying and I read about a mother who sexually abused her toddler and shared the acts with other like-minded horror mongers on the Internet. There was the boyfriend who tortured a toddler until his little body gave up and then there was the story of a little boy who died a brutal death at the hands of his caregivers only six days after the LA County’s Department of Children and Family Services dismissed allegations of abuse.
The media does a wonderful job of shocking us, repulsing us, and when we read about these types of atrocities, we ache. We also turn our heads in a different direction because the gut-level insanity is too much to wallow in for long; it affects our psyche and leaves us feeling helpless. The inundation of abuse stories in every publication and broadcast easily creates a sense of hopelessness where we don’t know where to turn, or how to help.
Reporting the stories, feeling the shock and horror is important, but so is our ability to collectively move toward helping create families free from abuse, and the media is not doing a good job in that regard. Simply gorging on the atrocities doesn’t provide any type of real-life solutions or empower us as a society of people who really do care.
It only takes a second, a tiny click inside the exhausted and frustrated mind of a parent to make the leap into child abuse. It may start with a parent yelling, trying desperately to demand compliance from a child who is simply hell bent on screaming, or throwing his food, or stomping her feet. As the frustration mounts and the struggle for control escalates, a parent without coping skills could all too easily lay violent hands and voice on the one person they’re duty-bound to protect and nurture.
If you’re a parent or caregiver, I feel pretty confident to assume you’ve been in these situations. You’re tired. You’re trying to keep it together. You’re stressed and anxious for a variety of reasons and your child has decided he or she is going to take your last ounce of sanity and throw it in your face. In that instant when you feel the rage and helplessness begin to grow, you make a choice. You choose to yell and scream. You choose to spank or slap or kick, or you choose something else, some way to cope that doesn’t include verbal or physical retribution toward a child so much smaller and weaker than you. It’s always a choice.
The stories of child abuse reported in our media are justifiably shocking and I understand all too well how much more comforting it is to turn the page or the channel and to think the statistics so overwhelming that there’s nothing I can do. It’s not true though. There is a lot I can do, and that you can do. We don’t have to imagine ourselves riding white horses into rings of fire. We can start simply, where roots begin to grow. Rather than feeling shocked and overwhelmed, we can reach out into our daily interactions and share a nugget of wisdom, a lesson learned hard.
What coping mechanisms do you use? When you feel like you’re about to slip over the edge, when you’re in that instant where you have to make a choice, what do you do? What tips can you share with other parents?